Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Plaza Rink

Today, that sign comes down.

After being closed for several years (due to State budget problems), the ice skating rink on the Empire State Plaza will open again today.

I don't skate. Well, I don't skate well. Last time I tried, I spent the entire time clinging to a rink's wall in desperation. But the Plaza rink has been a familiar sight since childhood and I'm glad to see it open again.

Skating is free, skate rentals are about $4.00. Which isn't a bad deal at all.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Holiday Hardware

A tree decorated with paintbrushes and tools - and topped with an saw-wielding angel - stands outside a soon-to-open custom framing shop on Lark Street.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Holiday Cheers

A Christmas tree decorated with corks outside a wine shop at the corner of Lark and State Streets.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Santa Speedo Sprint 2011

Today was the 6th annual Santa Speedo Sprint on Lark Street. This crazy, fun event has become my favorite holiday happening. It's festive, silly, irreverent, and all for a good cause.

This year's sprinters included scores of scantily-clad Santas, a variety of elves, at least one Christmas tree, the traditional Gingerbread Man, Wonder Woman, a "drunken" Beaker ("Meeeeeep"), a biker, Jesus, Spandex-wearing reindeer, a Sock Monkey, and an older man in nothing but a black g-string, sneakers, a white Panama hat.

Next year's Speedo Sprint is set for December 8. Looking forward to it already!

Santa Speedo 2010
Santa Speedo 2009

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Impressive bronze doors give a rather imposing flourish to this building on lower State Street.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Albany Evening News

Looking up at the former Albany Evening News building (attached to the gorgeous old D&H Building on Broadway, now SUNY Plaza).

Monday, December 5, 2011

Saturday, December 3, 2011

New York City And Points South

A very worn sign on a departure gate at the former Albany bus station on Broadway, a distinctive building which has been vacant for years.

See also:

Gateways and Getaways

Friday, December 2, 2011

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Living In An Old Brewery

A plaque on the wall gives a short history of the Knickerbocker Apartments on Dove and Jay Streets. This massive building was once one of Albany's many breweries and, like the former Hinckel Brewery near Lincoln Park, has found a new use as a residential building.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Titanic In Center Square

One thing I love about living here is that, almost every day, I come across a place or thing with a connection to history...or a supposed connection.

In this case, it's a peachy-pink brick house at 50 Dove Street.

Erected in 1865 by prominent builder John Bridgford (he was later in charge of the early stages of the Capitol's construction), this house supposedly the home of Arthur John Bright who survived the sinking of Titanic and died in Albany in 1921.

The exhaustive Encyclopedia Titanica, however, lists Bright as passing away in 1955. This house was indeed occupied by a man by that name who is now interred the St. George's Society lot at the Albany Rural Cemetery, but was he the same man who served as quartermaster on the ill-fated Titanic?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Mechanics & Farmers

At the corner of State and James Streets, the former Mechanics & Farmers Bank has always been one of my favorite buildings downtown. A few details on the building's history and a close-up on a floral detail on the front are in a previous post here.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Trick of The Light

I recently spent yet another day wandering the Albany Rural Cemetery. It's one of my favorite places to explore and I was doing some research for a book. This most recent trip took me back to one of my favorite sections, the old Church Grounds.

Of course, walking from one section to another always takes a long time because I am constantly veering off my intended path to examine some monument that catches my eye...and no matter how often I explore a given section, I always discover something new.

Walking back from the Church Grounds to the main Lodge, I noticed a few interesting headstones on the South Ridge...including this small Civil War monument. It's one of scores of such monuments that dot the Rural Cemetery and very typical with its sword, scabbard, and soldiers cap.

It was almost closing time so I just meant to take a quick photo, then quickly double back for a picture of the Van Rensselaer lot. To my eyes, there nothing odd about the light as I took the photo. But as I stepped away to the right after...out of the corner of my eye...I caught a brief glimpse of long, fine beams of sunlight slanting towards me. For a moment, I hesitated and considered taking a second picture. I wanted to capture those golden rays of light, but all the same, I knew that might not be possible. The chances of positioning my camera just at the perfect angle were slim and, to be honest, my humble little point-and-shoot camera isn't very good at capturing light effects. So I walked away and two more interesting old monuments distracted me.

It wasn't until I got home and uploaded all three hundred photos that I realized I had - by some chance - captured this glorious trick of the light after all!

(This monument marks the grave of Douglas Lodge, a Captain in the New York 43rd Infantry who was killed in May of 1863 at Salem Church, near Chancellorsville, Virginia. He was twenty years old.)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Looking Up - 69 State Street

View of a building designed in 1927 by Henry Ives Cobb. There's a hint of Egyptian influence in the brownstone details of the upper stories. The lower story incorporates Philip Hooker's original Bank of New York facade with its 1803 cornerstone still visible.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Getting Ready

I'm not quite ready to hear Christmas music or browse aisles full of ornaments and Santa-shaped candies, but it did make me smile to see workers setting up the holiday tree on the Empire State Plaza on a gorgeously warm day.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Cold Marigolds

After last week's messy and early storm, a marigold peeks out of the snow by the Albany Institute of History and Art.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Old Academy

The handsome copper cupola atop the old Albany Academy building designed by Philip Hooker in 1815. Located in Academy Park, the former school is Albany's oldest surviving civic building.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Warehouse - A Year Later

North side of the old Central Warehouse a year after a massive fire gutted the interior of the long-vacant cold-storage facility.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Spot The Spike

Badly worn asphalt along Broadway (just past the rail bridge and near Van Woert Street) reveals old stone paving and a heavy iron spike.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Friday, October 21, 2011

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Walls Have Eyes

A mural of Governor Nelson Rockefeller overlooking Broadway near Livingston Avenue. It's part of the new Living Walls project.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Blue Eyes

Writing found on the sidewalk near the corner of Washington Avenue and Dove Street. Maybe it's a tribute to someone's girlfriend or, maybe, Frank Sinatra.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Monday, September 26, 2011

State Street Scraper

An iron railing with a boot-scraper on the bottom step. This house actually has the scraper on both sides of the steps, most have only one.

Previously: The Boot-Scraper

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Rose Over Broadway

A rose mural adds a little color and charm to a rather dreary (but terribly interesting) stretch of Broadway. Expect a future blog about that brick building itself, too.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Doctor's Bell

The old bronze doorbell plate on a beautiful red brick and gray granite apartment building on State (just below Lark Street) reads DOCTOR'S BELL.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Faces In High Places

I was sitting on the corner of State and Lodge Street over the weekend, staring idly up at the gargoyles on the bell tower of Saint Peter's Episcopal Church. I love finding face and whimsical carvings on old building and, sure enough, tiny features caught my eye.

At first, though, I wasn't even sure if it was indeed a face because the carving was so high. But look below the gargoyle's foot and to the left. There's a man's face with a sober expression and a jaunty hat.

There are other carving up there, too...fanciful little creatures. And on the pinnacle just above the gargoyle, looking out into the blue sky, there's a head reminiscent of an Indian Head penny.

I really appreciate these wonderful details which artisans carved in place where few people would even see them.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

That Little Building On Broadway

This tiny building stands on Broadway, just opposite Manor Street. It's just a little square brick structure with a tiled roof and boarded-up windows. Someone may have once told me what it was built for, but I couldn't have been more than two or three at the time. So, I'm not sure what it is...something related to railroads? A gatehouse or little office for one of the old industrial buildings that line this stretch of Broadway north of downtown Albany?

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Capitol Dog

An amiable canine face is one of the many carving on the exterior of the New York State Capitol. It can be found on the State Street side of the port-cochere which runs beneath the massive eastern stairs.

Other Capitol carvings I've blogged about:

Capitol Faces
Capitol Cherub

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Sheridan Avenue Memorial

Tucked into the corner of Sheridan Avenue and Dove Street, this fenced plot of grass is home to a memorial which (according to a short 2002 piece in the Times Union) honors residents of Albany's 12th Ward who fought and died in World War II.

I remember driving past this corner often as a little girl. At the time, I didn't really distinguish between memorials and mausoleums. Which led to a rather macabre image of fallen soldiers actually entombed inside, just behind that flag. The flag, back then, was smaller and set against a blue background. I'm not sure when it was repainted, but I recall it was quite shabby when I was young.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Look At Me

A bit of graffiti on State Street, just a few steps east of Lark Street. The arrow points to a bit of blank wall and a narrow alley between two buildings. Nothing to look at, really.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Bicycle Mural

When I was growing up in the late 70s and 80s, there were a number of large murals on buildings around Albany. Today, very few of those massive wall paintings are left. This one, a giant-sized bicycle and rider, can be found on the rear wall of a building at the corner of Washington Avenue and Henry Johnson Boulevard.

Other murals I've blogged in the past include:

The Mural At Madison and Main
A One-Dimensional Neighborhood (this one has since been painted over)

Friday, September 2, 2011

361 State Street

I'm rather fond of named buildings, especially older apartment buildings. This one, The Westerlo, is on State Street just west of Lark Street. A matching plaque on the left of the doorway gives the street number.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Returning To Normal

Though there is still a great deal of debris floating down the muddy and high Hudson River and there is still a vast amount of recovery ahead for communities affected by the post-hurricane floods, some places are returning to normal. The flood waters have drained from this pond along the Corning Preserve, though the surrounding vegetation is still covered with a dusty film of dried mud.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Distinctive Door

This little building on Sheridan Avenue below Lark Street wouldn't have caught my eye if note for the damaged, but pretty tiles decorating its steps. But it's the use of a 19th-centruy fireplace insert on the door that stands out. I have an old fireplace with a similar insert and I've fond of these. Using it as window bars is a rather interesting idea.

The building used to house L'Esperance Tile Works (do check out their's beautiful) and has most recently been used as workspace by the Upstate Artists Guild (hence the lettering on the door).

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Post-Flood Mud

Knowing that the post-Irene flood waters were beginning to subside, I went back down to the Hudson River today. I saw at least two different helicopters overhead, one circled back and forth for a long time. I assume it was assessing the damages.

Water had receded from the underpass exiting onto Broadway enough for cars to pass, but the sidewalks under there were caked with mud. Further upstream, the Maiden Lane pedestrian bridge was closed. So I took the elevated walkway that runs behind the DEC and Quackebush Square to the parking lot next to the old Central Warehouse. Looking down from the ramp, I could see a fine film of dried mud on the underbrush along the railroad tracks and a layer of dried mud covered much of the parking lot on the south side of the massive abandoned warehouse.

Coming down off the ramp, I could smell the river. Approaching the 787 underpass that's used as a rain location for Alive At Five concerts (like the awesome Village People show a couple of years ago), there was a lot of mud. Dried mud at the intersection, a thick layer of mud in a parking lot under 787...heavy, oozing mud everywhere.

Front-end loaders were busy clearing mud from the 787 underpass, but the pedestrian path approaching the Livingston Avenue bridge was just too mucky for me to venture any closer. I could see small Coast Guard boats on the river, heading north. And, while the river was still higher than I can ever recall, it had dropped considerably since yesterday. The supports of the old rail bridge were clearly visible above the rapidly flowing river...which looked like a chocolate milkshake that's to the dirt and debris in it.

I'll be posting some addition photos in the Facebook album linked in yesterday's post.

Monday, August 29, 2011

After Irene

Yesterday, what was left of Hurricane Irene swept through Upstate New York with heavy wind and rain. I live on high ground near the Center Square of Albany and got through the storm with no problems. The lights flickered once or twice, but the power stayed on and so did the internet. I spent most of the day following the storm on Twitter and Facebook.

Today, the sunny is shining and the air is so fresh. You almost wouldn't know a storm had passed...but don't let that fool you. There are major problems today. There's massive flooding to the south and west of Albany. Areas like the Schoharie Valley, Montgomery County, Scotia, and the Stockade in Schenectady are especially impacted as the Schoharie Creek and Mohawk Rivers rise.

Around noon, I went down to the Corning Preserve along the Hudson River. With hours to go before the Mohawk River crests and still more before the Hudson crests, the water was already the highest I've ever seen. The path leading north towards the boat launch was completely submerged and water was already spilling over the retaining wall at the amphitheater.

Walking south along the Preserve, I saw tiny (but swift) whirlpools near the OGS pump station. Further down, the water had flooded the road near the pedestrian ramp to the Dunn Memorial Bridge and was rising beneath the underpass leading out to Broadway. You could see water bubbling up through grates and even through little fissures in the pavement.

Just ten minutes or so after the photo above was taken, the water was already starting to edge across the compass inlaid in the pavement. Debris was also seen rushing down the river, including pieces of docks with boats still secured.

I've posted an album of photos on Facebook. The album is set to public and can be viewed here.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Monday, August 8, 2011